BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The Bridgewater women's basketball team will have a new look when the Eagles open the 2018-19 season Saturday afternoon at William Peace University.
More than half of the 15-player squad will be putting on an Eagles' uniform on for the first time as seven freshmen and one transfer are on the roster. The new faces aren't the only changes. Expect the Eagles to play at a faster tempo than last year's squad.
"We want to play fast. We want to press. We want to push the basketball on offense," Eagles second-year head coach Sarah Matthews said.
The Eagles return a solid nucleus that finished with a .500 record in Coach Mathews' first season.
Seniors Briana Moore and Rebecca Harvey are proven scorers in the ODAC. Moore averaged 16.5 points per game and was a second team All-ODAC pick. Moore was the third-leading scorer in the conference. Harvey averaged 12.5 points per game during her junior season.
The one thing Moore and Harvey can both do is put the ball in the basket. Both averaged 3.5 made 3-pointers per game and both made right at 40 percent of her 3-point shots during the 2017-18 season. Send them to the foul line and both are almost automatic. Moore has made 81 percent of her free throws during her career. Harvey has made 86 percent of her foul shots during her two years with the Eagles and last year she led the ODAC, making better than 90 percent.
"They're are go-to scorers," Mathews said of her two seniors. "Both are versatile scorers. Both can hit the 3-pointer and both can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. Rebecca has really been slashing to the basket and scoring during our scrimmages."
The backcourt should be a strength as sophomore Madison Baum and senior Sydni Carey return at the point. Baum set a Bridgewater freshman record for assists with 145. Her 5.6 assists per game were second best in the country among freshmen. Carey averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 assists per game last year.
"I think you could see Maddie and Syd on the court at the same time a little more this year," said Mathews. "Having good ballhandlers on the court is an asset when you're looking to push the tempo."
Sophomore Ahlia Moone also returns after a solid first season where she averaged 7.8 points per game. "Ahlia is so good defensively. She has really quick hands and playing up-tempo should fit her game." Moone scored in double figures nine times as a freshman with a high of 18 points at Emory & Henry.
Another player who could thrive in the faster pace is junior Nina Novosel. "Getting up and down the court should be good for Nina. She's long and quick and we expect her to get a lot of steals and deflections in our press." Novosel came on strong at the end of last season, scoring in double figures in three of the final six games.
The final returnee is senior Allie Coburn. Coburn has been plagued by injuries during her Bridgewater career. A year ago, she was providing the Eagles with solid play inside, but her season ended due to injury after just nine games. She is still working her way back into playing shape, but could provide the team with a much-needed inside presence.
The remainder of the roster features transfer post player Claire Mocarski along with seven freshmen.
"Claire is definitely going to get some minutes," said Mathews "She's a very physical player and she can also get out and run the floor."
The freshmen will give Mathews plenty of options during the upcoming season.
"We really recruited well for the way we want to play," said Mathews. "We've brought in players who are long and quick. One thing I'm going to have this year is depth. I think I can easily go 11 to 12 deep.
"I also think we can play several different type lineups," Mathews added. "We can put a big lineup on the court or we could go really small at times. We want to use multiple defenses. We want to keep our opponents guessing. We want to play fast. On offense we have girls who can spread the floor and shoot the 3 and we have girls who can get to the basket."
Mathews has been pleased with the team's progress in the preseason. "Our scrimmages have been pretty good. Defensively, the girls are adapting well to the faster pace we want to play. We're looking to get some offense in transition off steals and deflections and we've forced a lot of turnovers in our scrimmages. On offense the girls have been doing a really good job of finding the open man. I've seen us pass up a good shot to get a great shot."
Local fans can get their first look at the Eagles on Nov. 20 when Bridgewater plays its first home game of the season against Randolph-Macon, the preseason favorite in the ODAC.
"I think the conference is going to be pretty balanced," said Mathews. "There are a lot of good basketball teams in the ODAC. You've got to be ready each time you step on the court."